This content is part of the Essential Guide: ITIL and ITSM best practices for process improvement

What is driving the evolution of ITSM processes?

At leading companies, ITSM processes are being redefined as 'cross-domain service management' and the ITSM team functions as enabler-in-chief of digital transformation.

As a long-standing discipline within IT, IT service management (ITSM) processes might seem incompatible with the needs of a modern enterprise IT department focused on digital transformation.

But Dennis Drogseth, vice president of the IT and data management research and consulting firm Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), says that's the wrong way to think about ITSM processes. Drogseth says research shows that forward-thinking companies see the ITSM team as a central player in digital transformation. The function practiced by these ITSM teams is more accurately defined as "cross-domain service management," explains Drogseth in this Q&A.

Editor's note: The following has been edited for clarity and length.

How do you define ITSM today?

Dennis Drogseth: Service management is the delivery of business services and the management and optimization of that service to consumers, both internal and external.

I can understand why certain people think ITSM is stale, but what my data is showing -- and is showing consistently -- is it's really becoming a progressive center for IT.

Dennis DrogsethDennis Drogseth

I've been very focused on cross-domain service-oriented teams that are getting beyond, "I'm the network [person]," or, "I'm the apps person." The professionals in this type of ITSM team are spread across IT, working with a progressive service desk on cross-domain performance, availability, change management, DevOps, SecOps and integrated asset management. The data consistently shows that this these groups identify themselves as ITSM.

It is really a progressive hub for IT as a whole. It requires a service management perspective. It means you get beyond your domain only. It means you're not just about infrastructure or apps. It means you're working as an ITSM team to deliver a service to improve internal performance or improve revenue.

What is driving this evolution of ITSM processes and teams?

Drogseth: There is no really good name for the cross-domain service management, so ITSM tends to be most commonly used. It involves the service desk, but it resides beyond it. And this ITSM [model] tends to have executive sponsorship and it tends to own the governance role.

I can understand why certain people think ITSM is stale, but what my data is showing -- and is showing consistently -- is it's really becoming a progressive center for IT.
Dennis Drogsethvice president of research, EMA

When I look at who is driving analytics strategies, or we're talking about AI operations -- when it came to groups that actually felt they own these functions -- ITSM far outstripped operations. The ITSM team is the cross-domain focus that unifies how IT is working.

Is this a universal trend in ITSM processes?

Drogseth: This research looked at companies with 500 [or more] employees in the U.S. and Europe involved in advanced analytics deployments, so you can say that [expertise] puts them in a more progressive group.

What does it mean for organizations with a traditional ITSM team?

Drogseth: If you don't have a group that's process-oriented, cross-domain and that is looking at delivering services and efficiency and value, then you're behind.

What really needs to happen in the end is consistency in process and consistency in aligning IT to business requirements, and having an approach that can accelerate automation to allow for flexibility and agility. The ITIL framework, which some organizations see as too rigid for enabling cross-domain service management, can still be a critical resource provided it is tuned to the unique needs of the IT environment at hand and is integrated with automation.

How does ITSM relate to the service desk function?

Drogseth: The term I used last year for how an ITSM team can and should evolve is hub of innovation -- an ITSM hub of innovation to support better communication and dialogue across IT and to share in automation and analytics.

That means reaching up through the service desk to the executive overlay and the team around it. The service desk is enabling the service flow and facilitating communication.

The ITSM team is a cross-domain service team leveraging the service desk capabilities, workflows, automation, governance and process definitions.

There is still going to be people doing specific things; there are people who are going to be focused on license management or microservices or development or managing the database. All those things are very needed, and most of IT is still going to be doing those things.

But the hub -- the ITSM team -- helps to unify what they're doing so they're more effective and relevant to what IT needs to be.

For more insight from Drogseth on ITSM processes and trends, read his tip "3 stages of ITSM and 5 ways to enhance your ITSM strategy."

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